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Chicago Gangs: Basic Education for Parents, Teachers and Community Members

Chicago Gangs: The Growing Trend

I have been around Chicago based street gangs most of my life starting from when I was in middle school in 1993. Back then the older kids were always looking to recruit the younger more naïve kids seeking acceptance. This technique kept the older kids from getting caught with drugs and guns, but gave the younger kids a since of purpose.

Street gangs are nothing new in this country and definitely nothing new in Chicago. In fact, the two sections that make up the majority of street gangs in America, the Folks and People were started in Chicago. My goal in this article is to give you a basic understanding of the different street gangs in Chicago and the suburb areas, as well as provide resources for you to combat gangs in your neighborhood and schools. This article is not intended for police or other law enforcement agents that have experience dealing with gang bangers. This is a basic article for concerned parents and others in the community seeking to learn more about this important subject.

I have worked with street gangs for the majority of my career since college in 2003. This experience includes working within the Department of Corrections in Indiana and Illinois as a substance abuse counselor and worked as a probation officer in Illinois supervising high risk street gang defendants. I am a Certified Gang Expert through the state of Illinois and at the national level. My most recent job was as an Intensive Probation Officer for the second largest county in Illinois where my job was to monitor all of the documented gang members placed on probation as well as high risk/violent offenders. I primarily worked at night as most of our offenders have curfews they must abide by. My education and experience has helped me in the streets and now it's time to start passing on what I've learned to others.

The two basic sets of Chicago gangs I will cover are the Folk and People Nation gangs. Most street gangs line up with one of these sides and are considered rivals in most areas. Occasionally they will align if it means each side is able to gain financially or more turf from outside gangs.

The Folk and People Nations

Let's spend some time discussing these two "nations" of street gangs. It can get a little confusing, so please read this section again if you need to. I will make it as simple and straightforward as possible.


The "people" nation formed around 1978 with the El Rukens (now called the Black P. Stones), Vice Lords and Latin Kings. They formed this nation as a rival to the Folk nation which I will discuss later in this section. Jeff Fort of the El Rukens has traditionally been given credit for forming this nation along with Bobby Gore of the Vice Lords and Gustavo Colon of the Latin Kings. There were many other gangs that joined this particular set, however for the sake of simplicity we will discuss the major ones that you will most likely have contact with in the schools and streets. Major players are: Latin Kings, Vice Lords, Black Gangster Disciples.


Each gang has its own symbols and style. However, all of the gangs under the People alliance abide by two simple rules:

1. Representation is made using 5. This can be a five point crown, it can be the number 5, it can be a five pointed star. It must adhere to 5 and in some gangs like the Latin Kings, 3 is acceptable as well.

2. Representation is made to the left. This can be an earring in the left ear, a hat is cocked to the left, tattoos are on the left side of the body, etc...

If these rules are not followed, members risk being "violated" which is a form of punishment the gangs use to keep members in line. This can take the form of physical beatings to hefty fines. Money seems to make more of an impact than physical beatings, so using fines is used often.

Some other symbols are pitchforks pointed downward, canes, and the gang's initials. I will get more into the specific gang's symbols, colors, and basic rules.


The folk nation symbols are of course the opposite of the people nation. Here are their two rules to abide by.

1. Representation is made by using 6. This can be a six pointed star and the number 6. There are not any gangs in this alliance that I know of that use 6 pointed crowns, however it wouldn't shock me to see that in graffiti.

2. Representation is made to the right. This includes hats tilted to the right, earring in the right ear, tattoos on the right side of the body and face...etc.

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History Channel's Gangland: Chicago Latin Kings


Almighty Latin King Nation

This gang is part of the People Nation, which as you read in the previous section represent everything to the left side of the body. This specific gang's colors are black and gold and in the Chicago area, their war colors are considered black and red.

Basically, this gang is one of the most popular and most dangerous gang in the Chicago area besides the MS 13's. The Latin King's put on the image that they are pro-social and even have bi-laws that each member must abide by or face the consequences. You can read more about this gang on their official website at Look at this site as a source for information and understanding. I am in NO WAY advertising or enhancing their cause.

The Latin Kings are one of the more organized street gangs. They have a hierarchy and a chain of command with the Corona and Inca at the top and the foot soldiers at the bottom. Every city has its own structure which reports to the main section in Chicago. Each sect in each major city around Chicago has its own treasurer, enforcer (look out during gang meetings, use violence to make others comply, and attack rival gangs), Inca, and Corona.

This gang primarily recruits young hispanic males, but are known for recruiting all races and backgrounds. There is also an offset membership for females called The Almighty Latin Queens. They are generally seen as a fellow gang member.

Vice Lords

This Chicago gang is another popular and dangerous game. Although they have been less targeted in the suburbs, they still present a serious threat. All street gangs are like cancer. They eat away at the community and cause destruction not only to themselves but to innocent people.

The Vice Lords generally wear the colors red and black. They use a cane (shown below) as one of their symbols as well as a pyramid with an eye on top. I won't go into what the symbols mean in this hub. But, you can check out my hub on the Vice Lords and learn their rules and laws and symbolism.

They are part of the people nation and so represent to the left of the body. The Vice Lords are traditionally known for selling drugs and having large territories. They were actually considered a pro-social group back in the 1970s and were even endorsed by our government at one time! They received funding to start after school programs for inner city youth. This front didn't last long before funding was pulled and they were seen as a street gang rather than a positive agent of change.

Gangster Disciples

The gangster disciples better known as Black P Stone Nation and also known as the Black Gangster Disciples and Black Disciples. This gang was started in the 1970s in the juvenile detention center located in St. Charles, IL. where Larry Hoover, the creator, was held. The GD's rival with the Almighty Vice Lord Nation and have been at war with each other for over 30 years however there have been alliances in some areas in the name of money. Traditionally this gang is more popular within the prison systems and so their street presence has waned a little over the years since Chicago Police and the FBI have targeted major street gangs.

The Gangster Disciples use the colors of black and blue and represent to the right side of the body. They are heavy in drug trafficking and illegal gun sales across the country. This gang is probably the oldest group and continues to threaten public safety.

Chicago Gang Resources

If you want to learn more information about the destructive force of street gangs, then check out the links below. Knowledge is power and if our communities take a strong stand against violence and gangs, then success is inevitable. - a comprehensive list of area gangs, pictures, tattoos and graffiti. - A resource of articles and periodicals written about street gangs.

Name That Gang

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Who represents by wearing black and blue?
    • Latin Kings
    • Vice Lords
    • Gangster Disciples
  2. The Folk Nation represents by wearing everything to the _____ side
    • Left
    • Right
    • Neither right or left
    • Center

Answer Key

  1. Latin Kings
  2. Right

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